Stationed at the Cross
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record that a Roman “centurion” stood near the cross and witnessed the death of Jesus. Mark is the only one to use here the military expression kentyrion (15:39,44,45), which is in fact transliterated from the Latin centurio (as earlier in Polybius 6.24.5). Indeed, this Latin word does not appear in the New Testament except in Mark, whose Gospel, according to the earliest testimonies, was written at Rome and for the Romans. To describe this same military officer, Matthew uses the corresponding Greek word hekatontarchos, literally a “commander of a hundred” (27:54), and Luke the variant hekatontarches (23:47).
This centurion is quoted in response to the death of Jesus in all three of these Gospels, though the quotations are not identical. A close examination of the biblical text will show, in fact, that the variants themselves are significant, each of them conveying a meaning proper to the Gospel in which it appears. I write to undertake that examination.
According to Mark, the centurion near the cross, when he witnesses the death of Jesus, cries out, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” We note that this exclamation, which in form differs not at all from a Christian profession of faith, does not arise in response to any of the physical phenomena that accompany the death of Jesus. Although Mark at this point does refer to the rending of the temple veil (15:38), he records no extraordinary physical manifestation at the site of the cross, except for the three hours of darkness (15:33).
THIS ARTICLE ONLY AVAILABLE TO SUBSCRIBERS.
FOR QUICK ACCESS:
Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
• Not a subscriber or wish to renew your subscription? Subscribe to Touchstone today for full online access. Over 30 years of publishing!
Transactions will be processed on a secure server.
Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.
OR get a subscription to Touchstone to read on your Kindle for only $1.99 per month! (This option is KINDLE ONLY and does not include either print or online.)
Your subscription goes a long way to ensure that Touchstone is able to continue its mission of publishing quality Christian articles and commentary.
more from the online archives
calling all readers
"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand
"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor